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The stories
This is the last story in a four-part series. The stories can be found online at journalgazette.net.
They were compiled from hours of interviews conducted in-person and by telephone with Debby Adams, Teresa Tesso and Dorothy Harris. Interviews with Albina Dragoli, in Australia, were conducted through Skype, an Internet service that offers video calling.
Additional information was obtained from the Fort Wayne Police Department.
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
A photo of Rick Tesso adorns the wall at Dimension Ford, where he worked in the parts department.
Blackjack, love and a motorcycle

Death tests faith: ‘Like a bad dream’

Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Debby Adams holds a photo of her brother Rick Tesso with their nephew Tyler Blanton, who is now 5.
Albina Dragoli
Rick Tesso

Part 4 of a 4-story series

Rick Tesso’s health showed little improvement in the days after his girlfriend left Fort Wayne to return to her home in Australia.

He was in pain. His organs were shutting down. Bacteria overwhelmed his bloodstream.

Rick, his doctors and his family started seriously discussing his options, all of which were bleak.

The doctors had done all they could. Rick would be on life support indefinitely. He might last another two months if he was moved to a nursing home.

He was dying.

Rick’s sisters, Debby Adams and Teresa Tesso, and his mother, Dorothy Harris, all asked him much the same: Are you in a lot of pain? Do you know how dire your condition is? Do you know you won’t be able to come home?

Do you want to be with your departed grandma?

To all the questions, Rick answered yes.

“Are you scared?” Debby asked.

Rick shook his head, no.

The same day Rick decided to be removed from life support, arrangements were made for his passing.

A priest anointed his forehead and prayed for his salvation. He was given additional pain medication to help him relax.

About 7:30 p.m. his ventilator was shut off, and his dialysis machine was moved into the corner. The room became quieter.

Rick still had a flow of oxygen. His mom and his sisters talked to him and held his hand. But the pain medication was putting him out of touch with the world.

“He was trying to say things back to us, and he couldn’t make us understand what he was trying to say,” his mother said.

They talked to him about this being his time. They told him they were going to miss him, that he would find relief with God.

At one point, his mom left to use the bathroom, and Teresa went to smoke a cigarette. Debby stayed with him.

“I was standing there by his bed and saw him take his last breath, and then the nurse came in and said he was gone,” she said.

It was a minute or so after 9 p.m. on July 22.

Six days earlier, Rick’s girlfriend, Albina Dragoli, had left Fort Wayne optimistic about his recovery. She had flown from Australia to be with Rick after a motorcycle crash put him in a coma. It was their only meeting in a two-year online romance.

She had not told Rick she was returning to Australia, because doctors feared such a goodbye would be too stressful. But in the days that followed, Rick asked for her, and his sister Teresa told him that Albina had gone home.

Not long after Rick died, Albina called the hospital from Australia, hoping to talk to him. A nurse told her to call his house instead.

Albina did, and she learned the tragic news.

“I never thought that would happen,” she said. “Maybe I did but was in denial.”

Albina was initially upset when she learned Rick had been removed from life support. Debby explained it was Rick’s decision, and Albina understood.

She knew he had been an active person who wouldn’t want the inert life that likely awaited him.

Before the crash, Albina would say her prayers and occasionally read the Bible. After the crash, she prayed for Rick. But since his death, she has stepped away from her faith. She now walks under a cloud of questions.

“Why didn’t he take him straightaway? Why make him wake up and see me?” she wonders. “Why make me go through all that, you know, hype?”

Albina was not able to attend Rick’s funeral. His burial Mass was July 27 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Crestline, Ohio, his hometown. He was buried in the church’s cemetery, with a motorcycle etched on his headstone.

“He loved life,” Debby said. “He loved riding his motorcycle, you know, just let the air flow through his hair.”

For Rick’s 54th birthday, Albina sent him a watch. They spent three hours talking together that day, Aug. 14, 2010. And for the first time, she told him she loved him.

She was worried how he would respond, but he reciprocated.

“I love you, too,” he told her.

Early in their relationship, Rick was guarded with his feelings. “It was hard at first, but yeah, he opened up a lot,” she said.

Rick eventually wrote her letters, telling her they were for her eyes only. Albina, a collector of love poetry, would send him poems.

On Aug. 14, what would have been Rick’s 55th birthday, Albina posted on his Facebook page a poem, whose author is unknown.

“In my heart your memory is kept To Love, To Cherish and to Never forget,” the poem read in part.

Months after Rick’s death, Albina’s memory of him remains potent. The crash and its aftermath still don’t seem real to her.

“I keep on thinking that … he will ring me up and say it’s a joke,” she said. “It feels like a bad dream that I’m going to wake up.”

aingersoll@jg.net

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